Huel Essential is a meal replacement product that Huel claim is nutritionally complete and balanced, contains all the nutrients and essential vitamins and minerals that humans need, and can replace nutritious meals and prevent people from turning to fast food.
Unfortunately, this Huel shake doesn’t live up to its own hype. Even slight scrutiny reveals a number of issues and red flags that mean you’re better off with other meal replacements than you are drinking Huel. In our Essential Huel review, we’ll explain to you precisely why that is. That said, it’s not just the nutritionals where Huel falls down here, the mixability and taste don’t stack up against the brands other products and it doesn’t come close to the best budget meal replacement shake out there rootana. Which won our overall best meal replacement shake as well.
Huel Essential Formula Meal Replacement Shake Review
The Huel Essential formula consists of oat flour, tapioca starch, pea protein, brown rice protein, ground flaxseed, sunflower oil powder, xanthan gum, sucralose, natural flavourings, and a micronutrient blend of corn starch, maltodextrin, and essential vitamins and minerals.
Most of the Huel powder ingredients look good at first, as does the 400 calories each drink contains. Unfortunately, all of the ingredients are lumped together in a proprietary blend.
This means it is impossible to know how much of each ingredient is present or what kind of effect it will have. This is the same issue you will find with the unnamed “natural flavourings” as well.
This is then compounded by the inclusion of ingredients used solely due to their low price tag, even though they are known to be capable of causing some issues, as well as low doses of the included vitamins and minerals.
Being gluten free, low priced, and available in vanilla and chocolate flavors are all appealing qualities that may make you want to buy Huel. However, they aren’t enough to overcome the fact it just simply isn’t the nutritionally complete meal replacement shake that is advertised.
That’s why we suggest people seeking calorie effective meal replacement shakes look to Huel alternatives like Rootana instead. A great meal replacement that’s proven to work and costs only slightly more, it’s one of the best powders the meal replacement industry has to offer. It beats huel essential on nutrition, taste, mixability and avoids bulking itself up with refined carbs that functionally offer no real nutritional value. It’s definitely worth the extra 10c per portion.
Huel Powder Essential Formula Ingredients
Oat flour is the main ingredient in Essential Huel powder. Rich in nutrients like fibre, protein, and minerals, it offers a number of health benefits.
It can help lower the risk of heart disease, regulate blood glucose, prevent blood sugar spikes, give you energy, enhance your skin and digestive health, and encourage weight loss (1). It is, however, also very high in calories and doesn’t contain as many nutrients as some other flours.
A decent gluten free option and ok overall, is just feels like it sets the tone for what’s to come when even the main ingredient in the Essential Huel powder seems to have been chosen more for its price than its effectiveness.
Pea protein is a complete protein containing all 9 essential amino acids. It’s considered the best plant based alternative to whey protein, although it’s still harder for our bodies to use, due to its lower bioavailability (2).
The problem here is that pea protein isn’t the only protein source in the Essential Huel powder proprietary blend. This means it’s impossible to know how much of each is present or what sort of benefits it can provide.
Tapioca is a starch from the Brazilian cassava plant that can add sweetness and thickness to a powder while being low in carbohydrates. Unfortunately, it is devoid of almost any other nutrients (3).
With tapioca and oat flour looking similar at a glance, it’s easy for Essential Huel powder to prioritise this over its more nutritionally complete counterpart to save money. This is unfortunately quite likely, as we’ve already seen Huel lean towards using cheaper ingredients.
Flaxseed powder comes from the flax plant and is rich in alpha linoleic acid, a healthy omega 3 fat. It can help regulate cholesterol, blood pressure, and blood glucose levels, and prevent or aid the symptoms of diabetes, heart disease, and metabolic syndrome.
The issue is these benefits are only seen when you consume around 50 grams each day (4). The Essential Huel powder doesn’t state the quantity of each ingredient, but as whole servings only weigh 100 grams, it’s very unlikely enough flaxseed is present to produce optimal results.
Natural flavourings are listed among the main ingredients of Essential Huel powder, but no more information is given. This means people have no opportunity to do their own research and it is another instance of Huel products masking their contents.
Micronutrient Blend (Corn Starch, Maltodextrin, Vitamins, And Minerals)
Essential Vitamins And Minerals
The blend of essential vitamins and minerals in Essential Huel powder is vitamin a, vitamin b6, vitamin b12, vitamin c, vitamin d2, vitamin d3, vitamin e, vitamin k1, vitamin k2, biotin, folate, niacin, pantothenic acid, riboflavin, thiamin, calcium, chloride, chromium, zinc, copper, iodine, iron, magnesium, manganese, molybdenum, phosphorus, potassium, and selenium.
These appear to be very diverse at first, until you look at the dosages, as this is one area where exact amounts must be listed. Most of the vitamins and minerals are present in doses between 20 and 30% of your recommended daily intake.
Not only is this not ideal in itself, but it also suggests corners have likely been cut in the areas they aren’t required to be so transparent about as well.
Maltodextrin & Corn Starch
Maltodextrin is an artificial sweetener with the same number calories as regular sugar. It offers no additional health benefits and can cause blood sugar spikes faster than sugar, and it is only used as it’s a cheaper sweetening option (5).
Corn starch is a carbohydrate that serves no purpose beyond thickening the powder and the drink it makes.
Brown Rice Protein
Brown rice protein can be a decent plant based protein source, as it contains a number of essential amino acids which stimulate muscle growth while also fuelling and repairing them. It isn’t a complete protein source though, as it doesn’t contain the amino acid lysine.
Brown rice protein is often useful in meal replacement drinks, but it becomes an issue when supplements like Huel products don’t list how much of each ingredient is present.
This is because they can easily use a small amount of a complete protein source to get it on the label, then pump their product full of a cheaper, less nutritionally complete protein powder to save money (6).
Sunflower Oil Powder
Sunflower oil powder is used in meal replacements as it’s a cheap source of both omega 3 and omega 6 polyunsaturated fatty acids. These are beneficial for lowering cholesterol levels and your risk of having a heart attack or stroke.
Unfortunately, it also has a very poor omega 3 to omega 6 ratio. This means that, while it is beneficial in small doses, it can actually be very harmful if you consume too much (7).
This is a real issue as we’ve already seen Huel shakes rely heavily on cheap ingredients hidden in their blend.
Xanthan gum is a polysaccharide that is common in powder products as it improves their shelf life, taste, texture, consistency, and appearance (8).
The problem is, most good meal replacement powders use it together with a mix of other similar ingredients. As Essential Huel powder solely uses xanthan gum, it’s very likely it will last and mix worse than other meal replacement drinks and won’t be as enjoyable.
Sucralose is an artificial sweetener used to sweeten Essential Huel powder instead of sugar, as it’s calorie free and won’t spike your blood sugar.
The issue is that it also contains no nutrients or goodness, reduces your healthy gut bacteria, and causes issues like obesity, diabetes, and inflammation (9). This means the sole benefit of using sucralose doesn’t make up for all the negatives linked to it.
Huel Review: Essential Formula Pros & Cons
- Reasonably priced
- Uses some good ingredients
- Has a decent calorie content
- The proprietary blend masks the amounts of each ingredient used
- Some of the ingredients are cheap, low quality, and offer minimal to no nutritional benefit
- There is no info on what “natural flavours” are used
- A minimum of 2 bags have to be bought in each order
- The doses of the vitamins and minerals are lower than ideal
Essential Formula Huel Powder Review Conclusion
Our Essential Huel review has hopefully made it apparent that you may see some benefits if you drink Huel, but it is far from the nutritionally complete meal replacement it claims to be.
From cheap, low quality ingredients and poor vitamin and mineral doses to a complete lack of transparency on what it contains, this Huel powder is a perfect example of you get what you pay for. Having to buy in bulk even negates some of the benefits of its low price as well.
You’re better to avoid Huel products and stick to meal replacements like Rootana instead. A great tasting meal replacement shake that costs just slightly more and is proven to do everything Huel Essential claims to and more, it is simply a better choice in every way.